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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ONE DAY by David Nicholls

I fell in and out of love with this book constantly while I was reading it. Almost as often as the two main characters do with each other.

I’ve been trying to analyse why I started out feeling slightly antagonistic towards it and have concluded the banner quotes from Nick Hornby ('Big, absorbing, smart...') on one edition and Tony Parsons on another (‘A totally brilliant book.’) didn’t help.

I was already nurturing an unattractive (and I hope uncharacteristic) bitterness about it being yet another work of light modern relationship fiction being taken seriously (hardback, if you don’t mind…) because it was by a man, which would be dismissed as chick lit if it were by a Davina Nicholls.

As one the great luminaries of that genre (Mr Hornby being the Imperial Wizard thereof) Tony’s blessing was the last straw. *

Twisted by such rancour, I convinced myself as I read that the author was a smug long-time contributor to GQ and other such manly mags and his hyper real description of the decadent media whirl in London in the 1990s was pretty much autobiographical.

So I felt pretty stupid when I actually took the time to Google him and find out that David Nicholls is actually a pretty serious actor, playwright and screenplay dude. He’s adapted Thomas Hardy for the telly. I gave myself a talking to and read on.

If I found some of his descriptions of that particular milieu in that particular era a little too close for comfort, that’s my problem, not his. And there were several moments in the book where I gasped, he nailed particular situations so perfectly.

Sometimes I laughed out loud, at others tears pricked my eyes. Some of the times past evoked were a little painful to revisit.

There were passages, however, when I found the forensic accuracy of the rendering of earlier decades made it read more like journalism than fiction.

But once I knew he never had been a regular contributor to the Sunday Times Style section, or a columnist on Arena, I got over that. And, I’m happy to say, over myself. Then I could just enjoy a ripping good love story.

What Nicholls has done here is to serve up in its entirety the emotional journey, from university graduation to middle age, of his generation – just five years younger than mine, and close enough to be entirely recognisable.

It’s The Glittering Prizes of Generation X, really, and I hope he writes a sequel in twenty years time. Which I promise I will approach with my prejudices on hold.

* I’ve got a bit of history with Mr Parsons. I’ll write about it in my next post.

Reading satisfaction: 6
Un-put-downable-ness: 6
Recommend to best girlfriend: 8
Recommend to mother: 3
Recommend to niece: 10
Recommend to gay best friend: 8
Recommend to man pal: 6
Recommend to Helen Razer: 5
Read on public transport: 5
Unpleasantness: 0

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